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Bernie Sanders: Marijuana isn't heroin

Bernie Sanders: Marijuana isn't heroin
© Greg Nash

Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersTrump has declared war on our climate — we won’t let him win Stock slide bites boastful Trump, but rising wages great for GOP Millions should march on DC to defeat Trump Republicans MORE (I-Vt.) doubled down on his opposition to enforcing federal marijuana laws on Thursday, noting that the substance is less dangerous than heroin and that states should move toward decriminalizing it.

Sanders called on Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsDems pick up deep-red legislative seat in Missouri Grassley to Sessions: Policy for employees does not comply with the law New immigration policy leaves asylum seekers in the lurch MORE to reverse an expected decision to roll back an Obama-era policy giving states leeway to legalize recreational marijuana use.

"Marijuana is not the same as heroin. No one who has seriously studied the issue believes that marijuana should be classified as a Schedule 1 drug beside killer drugs like heroin," Sanders said in a statement.

"Quite the contrary. We should allow states the right to move toward the decriminalization of marijuana, not reverse the progress that has been made in recent years," he added.

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Sanders's statement comes after reports that Sessions plans to rescind the so-called Cole memo, written by then-Deputy Attorney General James Cole under former President Obama, which directed federal prosecutors to deprioritize marijuana-related offenses in states that have legalized recreational use of the substance.

The move by Sessions threatens the movement to legalize recreational marijuana use in several states, including, most recently, California, which began allowing recreational use on Monday.

So far, six states have approved marijuana for recreational use, and dozens allow marijuana for medical use. The substance, however, remains federally prohibited and is classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance.

The Cole memo discouraged U.S. attorneys from prosecuting marijuana-related cases in states that have legalized the substance, paving the way for such laws to be implemented.